He took a small folder from his backpack and, from it, he took out sheets of gray paper cut lengthwise. He handed one sheet with a smile to a fellow jeepney passenger, an old lady with a faintly worried face in deep contemplation. The lady took the sheet of paper he handed and squinted on the bold print.
“How to Build a Happy Family?” she muttered.
“Yes,“ he immediately said back, thrilled with the slight interest the lady took in his leaflet, keeping his smile sweet.
“It’s a campaign by our church to help open up each family member’s eyes to the key to having a happy family,” he continued. The lady was focused on him. “Which is the church’s teachings,” he couldn’t help but giggle. His heart was full of excitement.
The lady let out an “uh, huh.”
“Oh, our church has a website too! It’s written at the back.”
“I don’t do computers, but thank you so much, boy.”
And the lady hailed the jeepney to stop and she disembarked. He was quite pleased with himself about making a conversation with someone about his church service. He peeked into his folder and roughly counted the thick heap of leaflets left to give away. He enjoyed volunteering for their church’s cause, and this month’s campaign was about building families and binding them with the infinite love of God through the church’s teachings. Tomorrow, he would gladly give the leaflets away to those needful people and create awareness about building a happy family. He loved changing people’s lives.
He got off the jeepney, hurried past the stop lights with only three seconds to go.
He walked through a street paving their neighborhood. He was immediately greeted by the foul smell emanating from the nearby estero. People were in their usual routines; mothers were intimately huddled, arms crossed to their chest, some are talking in hushed voices, some are laughing their guts out. Men were at their usual low tables, topless and loudly making love with bottles of cheap liquor. Many had the product they sold laid on tables and carts, mostly hastily prepared snacks, or used clothing sold typically at twenty to fifty pesos each. The noise made by raucous children on the street annoyed him as he passed through a scatter of them playing volleyball. At the background, you could hear the sound of someone pouring their heart out on karaoke.
He went in their house, the rusty hinges sang their screechy weeping as he passed through the half-beaten door. On the nearby table he found a plate of what seemed like delicious food if not for its foul smell. It must have been sitting for at least two days. The house was dark, empty, and the smell of molds and spoiled stuff. He heaved out the leaflet folder from his bag and placed it on the table.
He went in front of a small table where an image of the dark Sto. Niño stood. After lighting a candle, he touched holy child’s face and made the sign of the cross. He said a silent prayer for about a minute, lifted his head, and blew the candle off.
Where is mother? He suddenly remembered to ask.
He walked slowly into the room, though a thin white curtain and turned the light on. He found a figure, sitting at one corner of the room. He slowly approached the figure and whispered, “mother”.
He bent down to pull her up but she would not move. He resolved to bracing his arms around her thin frame.
His mother turned to him, her face, covered with inexplicably dark green and purple patches. Her nose was broken; dried blood the color of earth ran down to her upper lip.
He delicately observed how grave it was this time.
He was suddenly startled by a series of knocks that hit the door. He could tell he was drunk again. His chest throbbed incredibly fast but he remained calm.
“Open the door, you fucking useless whore!”
A thin smirk appeared on his face. He listened intently to the angry rhythm of the knocks like it was music to his ears. He looked into his mother’s blank eyes and said in a hushed voice,
“Kaunting tiis nalang.”
He stood up and walked out of the room and to the kitchen. He took out something from a cupboard. He held it carefully to his back and slowly made for the door, his face, firm and focused. The knocks had gone louder, more violent. For a moment, he thought the door was going to fly in. He tried not to stir.
“What the fuck is taking you so long? Open the goddamned door!”
He opened the door, light peeked, washing over his face.
He stood by door, his hands tightly holding a knife.
In the morning, he would pray for his father’s soul in front of Sto. Niño’s knowing face.